The End of the World as We Know it

Written on July 8, 2011 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Culture & Society, Europe, News

As politicians lacerated it and advertisers withdrew their business this week, the future of the News of the World, Britain’s biggest-selling Sunday paper, looked bleak. Then, in a dramatic announcement, James Murdoch, the chairman of News International, his father Rupert’s British newspaper outfit, announced that, in fact, the paper would have no future it all: its issue of July 10th, he said,  would be its last.

It was a bold bid to regain the initiative after a week of appalling revelations about wrongdoing at the News of the World. It began with the revelation that one of the many victims of voicemail-hacking by the paper was Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl who was murdered in Surrey in March 2002. On July 4th the Guardian reported allegations that Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator working with News of the World journalists, had hacked into Dowler’s voicemail in the days after her disappearance, removing some messages to free up space when her account became full. The effect was to make her family think she might still be alive.

Other dreadful allegations followed. The relatives of people killed in the terrorist attacks in London of July 2005, and of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, might also have been targeted. News International acknowledged that it had passed e-mails to the police that appeared to document illegal payments to police officers by News of the World journalists. Even worse was alleged by some MPs in a heated parliamentary debate on July 6th.

Mr Mulcaire was jailed in 2007 for hacking voicemail messages of members of the royal household, along with Clive Goodman, the News of the World’s royal correspondent. At the time, and for a long time afterwards, executives at News International insisted that Mr Goodman was a lone, rogue operator. In the past few months that defence has collapsed, amid a deluge of civil cases brought by the lengthening list of hacking victims, pay-offs and the arrest of more journalists. James Murdoch acknowledged that the defence was untrue, and that he himself had approved out-of-court settlements with some hacking victims without having “a complete picture”. This was “a matter of serious regret”, he said. Read more…

As published in www.economist.com on July 7, 2011 (The Economist Online Edition)


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